Test of fire for Hasina
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh has an important task set before her: to convince everyone that her Awami League government is in control of her country. When you have para-military personnel mutineering in downtown Dhaka, the hope that Ms Hasina ushered in when she won in a landslide in December last year, is bound to waver. But there are reports of violence spreading to 12 of the 64 border districts where the 42,000-strong Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) is stationed. The BDR, notoriously corrupt as an institution, seems to have pre-emptively lashed out against any government plan of launching a fumigation process. It has found no support outside its own ranks, with the Bangladesh Army staunchly supporting the democratic government. It’s another matter that the BDR’s structure — its officers coming from the army, its rank and file from the BDR itself — is tailor-made for an internal shakedown. With reports of BDR officers being held hostage, that shakedown may be on display.
While this seems like a dramatic version of protests against what in India is a harrumph against Pay Commission recommendations, it would be wise for Dhaka not to take its eyes off the ball. The violence, claiming at least 50 lives till now, is not something that any government can afford to shrug off. Opposition leader Khaleda Zia has not used this flash fire to stoke any political flames — yet. The BDR itself has threatened to cut across into Indian territory, not committing to surrender just as yet. This isn’t pretty news at all.
With BDR posts bordering Indian states like Meghalaya, New Delhi should be vigilant. Check-posts and border barriers are mostly imaginary along this boundary. New Delhi should show its confidence in Ms Hasina’s government. For what it does not want is fair weather friends from Bangladesh’s fundamentalist fringe egging on these renegades.